LAHORE - The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered private medical colleges across the country to return fees collected in excess of Rs850,000 – excluding hostel and transportation charges – to students within one month.

The court however said the order would not apply to Agha Khan University Karachi, University of Health Sciences and the PMDC, saying that dues paid to these institutions would not be refunded.

A two judge bench, led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and including Justice Ijazul Ahsan, was hearing a suo moto notice on fee structure of private medical institutions at the Supreme Court Lahore registry.

The bench also discussed the matter of medical colleges registered in alleged violation of rules during the tenure of former Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) President Dr Asim Hussain.

The court referred the matter to National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency for inquiry, ordering them to submit a report on within a month.

The CJP said he wanted to see true professionals in the medical profession, observing that “we have been informed that butchers are now running medical institutions”.

When a lawyer said that the private medical colleges had been filling the vacuum created by the public sector colleges, Justice Saqib rejected this impression.

During the proceedings, Dr Asim Hussain also presented recommendations before the court for improvement in the medical education sector. He informed the court about fee refund and affiliation of colleges given during his tenure as PMDC president.

Addressing Dr Asim, the CJP remarked that he (Asim) would have to pay Rs4 billion if he (CJP) himself started recovery.

However, the CJP barred the FIA from harassing any medical institution and directed it to seek permission from the court’s registrar prior to any action.

“We have to set things right, not scare people,” remarked the chief justice.

Health Secretary Najam Shah and court’s amicus curie Prof Dr Faisal Masood presented a plan regarding admission of eligible students. They said that five extra seats had been created at every medical college. The CJP approved the plan.

Pakistan Association of Private Medical Institutions (PAMI) informed the bench through its counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar that Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the audit of the colleges under question had not been completed, as the accountancy firm had refused to hold audit citing conflict of interest.

On the response of the audit firm, the CJP wondered why AF Ferguson had not revealed this before. He directed the accountancy firm’s responsible officer to appear in person on the next hearing.

The chief justice withdrew its previous order given in the case of Pak-Red Crescent Medical & Dental College in Phoolnagar.

The CJP during his visit to Phoolnagar’s college had got arrested its officials for charging the students more than Rs2 million and not providing them basic facilities. He had also directed the FIA to take action against them.

FIA director Dr Usman Anwar presented his report before the court. Crescent College’s lawyer also submitted that the court orders regarding excessive fee had been complied with.